fredag 26 augusti 2011

The future of radio / Radio of the future

My single largest commitment during the academic year is a large project course that our final year students take. The course is now given for the 9th year, and I have been the main teacher on that course all of those years but two.

You would be excused if you thought that I was beginning to get bored by the course, but as the course changes its theme every year, it is basically a new course for me every year. This year's theme is radio, where last year's theme was music (the future of music / music of the future). The year before that it was something else. And so on.

The course starts next week and there have been three big changes since the last year it was given:
- As we have restructured our education, the course has been moved from the spring to the autumn term.
- The course were earlier exclusive and compulsory for our Swedish engineering students. Not it is open also for our international students at the media management program. So the group that takes the course will now be more diverse, and, the language of the course has been switched from Swedish to English.
- The course is now graded (A-F) instead of just having a pass/fail grade scale.

The second change in the list above is obviously the big change. It (for example) means that we have to ask our incoming guests (we have many of them in this course) to give their talks in English.

The point I wanted to make here, and the fruit of this week's (intensive) labor, is that it is surprisingly easy to find guest lecturers for our course. We try to cover the whole range of radio; technical aspects, economic, content, reception, history etc. and we invite both academics and people in industry. What always surprises me is how easy it is to get them to agree to come. We do have a very smooth sales pitch, and it can be followed up by shooting of a mail with all relevant information, and the initial reaction of more than 90% of the people I call is interest in the course, and interest in coming to KTH to give a guest lecture. It might not always work out, but that's at least not a matter of lack of interest.

If I may venture to guess why that is the case, after having thought about some this week, I have a couple of hypotheses:
- KTH has a strong brand name. Who doesn't want to give a talk there (if they haven't before)? Royal Institute of Technology sounds impressive to foreigners.
- The future of X, where X is the area where the person we invite work with, is an interesting angle. Who works in, or with radio who isn't interest in, and doesn't have something to say about the future?
- We make sure our guests don't step on each other's toes topically, but after having profiled them, we pretty much give them free reins to structure the talk whatever way they want to. It's not that difficult to talk about X if that is what you work with and have worked with for 5 - 10 - 20 years or more.

Anyway, the results of our (numerous) telephone calls is always a top-notch lecture series with cutting-edge lectures given by experts and it is always a pleasure to listen and learn so much about new areas. This year I'm especially happy to have bagged the multi-award-winning journalist Adam Davidson from my favorite radio program/podcast NPR Planet Money.

I'll probably write a few more posts this autumn about the future of radio.